I’m approaching the gigantic South By Southwest conference-festival-tradeshow like I approach most things — starting with small exploratory trips around the periphery before diving in headfirst. Today I stood in various lines for about 90 minutes to get my “platinum” registration badge. The picture captures but a small portion of the endless queue, which snaked all the way around the gigantic Austin Convention Center.
My platinum badge is not some kind of VIP item, it just means I am here for all three segments of the 10-day event: Interactive, Film and Music. Right now, for Interactive, the audience is heavy on earnest young techno-geek web designers and developers, and the corporate types that hire them. I stood in line behind two suits from Coca-Cola in Atlanta and ahead of a group of people from Toyota Motor Company; the sponsored booths in the lobby mostly promoted commercial dot-coms like Free Credit Report and Mashable.
Nothing much interested me on the program today, so I went and did other things: had dinner at my favorite Austin restaurant, the Kerbey Lane Cafe, and did a load of laundry. I like going to local places like laundromats when I’m at an event like this; they remind me of how regular people live their lives. Pretty busy for a Friday night.
Tomorrow will be a full day of film panels. I’m concentrating on producing, financing, marketing, and I want to make connections with as many distributors, producers’ reps and sales agents as I can. Jon Reiss, author of Think Outside the Box Office and one of the gurus of hybrid/D.I.Y. film marketing, is on a panel titled “Tough Love: Why Your Film is Not Festival-Ready.” I’m kind of interested in this one, since my film Troubadour Blues is slowly finding an audience without much help from the festival circuit.
My screening on Thursday, March 15, is one of the hundreds of “unsanctioned” events that constitute sort of a parallel universe from “official” SXSW. Many of my Austin musician friends are playing unofficially, unable to get into the big showcases just as I’ve been unable to get my film into the big film festival. The festival, which started out showcasing small, low-budget, grassroots films, has pretty much gone Hollywood; one of the big premieres at SXSW Film is the remake of 21 Jump Street with Brad Pitt and Johnny Depp. What that has to do with “indie film” is beyond me.
Stay tuned for more news as it happens.